COLLEGE PARK, MD - SEPTEMBER 24: Head coach Randy Edsall of the Maryland Terrapins motions to the defense from the sidelines during the first quarter against the Temple Owls at Byrd Stadium on September 24, 2011 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Hey, look at the bright side: he's not our for the season this time. That counts for something, right? And he doesn't need surgery ... yet.
Unfortunately, there's a very bad side to this: it's on his right knee, which is the same knee that kept him out for the year last season. If it was the other knee I'd feel a little more comfortable, but the fact that it's recurring means it might keep recurring. Maryland really cannot afford an on-again-off-again Tate this season. Actually, I misread it and it's his left knee. All is right with the world, everyone. Except for the bit about missing a few games.
If the three-to-four week timeframe holds, that means the earliest he'll return is against Connecticut, and there's a chance he'll miss that game as well. Alex Twine will step in for him, which isn't the worst thing in the world since Twine is a fairly capable backup. But with Matt Robinson, Andre Monroe, Isaiah Ross, Keith Bowers, Isaac Goins, and A.J. Hendy all out, Maryland's defense is going to be really thin for the first few games.
Expect to see a front three of Joe Vellano, Darius Kilgo, and A.J. Francis, with Darin Drakeford, Demetrius Hartsfield, L.A. Goree, and Twine behind them. The secondary will probably have Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson at the corners with Eric Franklin and true freshman Sean Davis at safety. That's not a terrible starting eleven, but the problem is that past that, there's almost no depth. Justin Anderson will be filling in at the number two at both defensive end spots, and Nate Clarke is the only backup at nose tackle. The linebackers will lean on Cole Farrand and then true freshmen past that. And the secondary depth consists of freshmen and walk-ons. That's a might scary proposition.
Hopefully the guys who are out at the moment get back healthy as soon as possible, especially because West Virginia lurks just past Connecticut and things could get really ugly if Maryland's defense isn't right by then. The worst part about the whole situation is that Maryland's best chances to win games come early in the year - if everything's right, there's a shot they win four of their first five. W&M, Temple, UConn, and Wake Forest are about the four most winnable games on the schedule this year. Once they get past that, though, the schedule takes a massive nosedive. The fact that the defense isn't close to full-strength for the easy ones might jeopardize their shot at a strong start - an absolute necessity if this isn't going to be a lost season.
But a quick note on Tate, who's had god-awful luck. He could've left after his junior season, when he likely would've been a third- or fourth-round NFL Draft pick and could've gone even higher. Instead, he came back, got moved to a position which didn't really suit him, missed the entire year with an injury, came back the next year and promptly got injured again. Unless Tate gets healthy and plays a blinder of a year, he'll probably be a late-round pick at best. Next time you criticize someone for leaving college too early, keep Tate's case in mind. Unlikely though it may be, every player is terrified it'll happen to them. I feel terrible for Kenny, and hope for his sake he can get back and play his way back into the upper-tier of the draft.
Anyway, like I said earlier, this is what happens when you ignore the football gods. They strike your players down, one by one. Time to pull out some sort of ritual sacrifice to atone for our hubris.